There's an interesting discussion going on over at Bayblab on The State of Science Blogging. The commenters are responding to some provocation by Anonymous Coward who took a look at the top five science blogs and said,
Of those only Cognitive daily is consistantly talking about peer-reviewed research. Why is that? Perhaps there is less appeal in discussing recent papers than bashing creationists. But bashing creationists is almost too easy, and not very constructive. It's been said before, you can't reason somebody out of a position in which they didn't reason themselves into. And it worries me because to the lay audience listening to PZ Myers (the 800lb gorilla), it would seem that science's purpose is to attack religion. In fact I suspect the blog gets most of its traffic from creationists. According to technorati, his top tags are "Creationism, godlessness, humor, kooks, politics, religion, weblog, weirdness", so should it really count as a science blog?One of the most interesting comments comes from Dave Munger of Cognitive Daily ....
If you examine the elephant in the room, ScienceBlogs, the trend is maintained: politics, religion books, technology, education and music are tagged more often than biology or genetics. This suggests that their primary motives are entertainment rather than discussing science. Why? Because it pays. Seed Magazine and the bloggers themselves profit from the traffic. That's right, Seed actually pays these bloggers for their posts. And the whole ScienceBlogs thing is a little incestuous, they really like linking to each other, but not so much to the little blogs. I'm afraid gone is the amateur blogger, and in is the professional gonzo science journalist. Might as well read Seed magazine.
So... the most popular science blogs cover the most popular topics related to science?This is a very important point. Many of us are interested in blogging about science and in teaching science. But you can't be an effective advocate for science if you don't have an audience. One way to get an audience is to blog about science related issues that are controversial and then sneak in some good science blogs when people come to visit.
You also seem to be saying that you wish these bloggers would write about less popular topics. But that would make them... less popular. And then other science blogs would become the most popular. Then you could complain about those blogs.
At least you'd have something to write about.
In my case, that's not the only motive for blogging about rationalism and superstition. I happen to have (at least) two interests in life and I like to blog about everything that interests me. As it turns out, there are more people interested in the conflict between science and religion—or the war in the Middle East—than in hard-core science. I posted a whole series of articles on The Three Domain Hypothesis and got only a handful of comments. The series on junk DNA is bringing in just a trickle of interested readers. On the other hand, when I post about religion or politics there are dozens of comments and a lively discussion ensues.
1. I don't like linking to anonymous bloggers. In the future I'm going to make it a policy to only link to bloggers who identify themselves, except under rare circumstances.